Gut health is the latest buzz word in the health world
There’s currently more information than ever showing that the health of our gut really does affect the health of our entire body. Everything from the health of your immune system to your figure has been proven to be regulated by the health of your gut. If you just do a quick Google search for ‘natural ways to support gut health,’ you’ll find almost 90 million results. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to digestive health. Believe me, I’ve been there.
But what if I told you that supporting your gut health could be as simple as drinking a few cups of tea each day?
Now, I’m not saying that drinking tea alone will solve all your gut issues. But it is a simple way to provide your gut with some key nutrients to optimise its health.
What makes for A HEALTHY GUT?
We all want a healthy gut. We all know how miserable just a small amount of digestive discomfort can be. What makes up a robust digestive system can vary from person to person. And what affects one person’s digestion won’t affect another. How do you know your digestive system is working smoothly? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Am I passing a stool at least once a day?
- Am I experiencing bloating, loose stools, constipation, or gas?
- Can I eat freely with no significant issues.
- Am I able to get through the day without any digestive discomfort?
- Can I splurge on pasta or a takeout without my digestion tanking the next day?
Having good digestion is a complex process. It involves appropriate secretion of stomach acid and bile, as well as peristaltic movements of your intestines. And believe it or not, interactions from your environment and own brain affect digestion as well.
Even with all these complex processes working together, one of the most important factors of healthy digestion is the health of your gut bacteria.
You’re probably aware that we have billions and trillions of bacteria living in our guts. These beneficial gut bugs work in symbiotic relationship with us to keep our digestion working well in ways we’re only beginning to understand.
Why Gut Bacteria Are Critical to Gut Health
Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria (known as your microbiome) that don’t just take up space. They play an integral role in the health of your gut, along with the health of the rest of your body.
Without a robust and healthy microbiome, your gut just cannot function at its best.
If your gut bacteria are imbalanced, you may end up suffering from a host of other health issues. Everything from insulin resistance, to inflammation, and depression has been linked to an unhealthy microbiome. Having healthy and happy gut bacteria affects WAY more than just our digestion. Which is why maintaining adequate levels of the beneficial bacteria is so important. Even if we focus on just the gut-related effects of having an unhealthy microbiome, the impact is still huge! Any of the following symptoms can be a sign of imbalanced gut bacteria.
- Bloating and gas
- Indigestion and acid reflux
- Food sensitivities
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Chronic bad breath
Healthy gut bacteria support proper digestion by maintaining the integrity of your gut lining, helping you digest certain fibres, and keeping any pathogens that might make you sick at bay. Now that we’ve looked at why gut health – specifically microbiome health – is so important, you might be wondering what any of this has to do with herbal tea. Well, queue polyphenols.
WHAT ARE POLYPHENOLS?
Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found in plants. There are over 500 different types of these micronutrients. And each one benefits the body in a different way. This is just one more reason to get a large variety of plant foods in your diet! Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant. And we’ve all heard of antioxidants for their health-promoting benefits.
But did you know that in the gut, polyphenols support the growth of beneficial bacteria by acting as a prebiotic?
A prebiotic is a plant fiber that is indigestible by our body but can be digested by the bacteria that reside in our gut. It serves as food for those beneficial gut bugs and keeps them healthy and in appropriate numbers. One study has shown that a diet high in polyphenols increased the numbers of beneficial bacteria specifically tied to helping prevent leaky gut! Leaky gut is one of the most common causes of digestive issues among my clients. And eating a diet high in polyphenols is such a simple way to help prevent it.
All plant foods contain some number of polyphenols. But the highest concentration of these micronutrients is actually found in tea!
Herbal teas are some of the richest sources of polyphenols you can consume. That’s why these teas can serve as an excellent and delicious supplement to support good gut health. (Click here to see my favourite)
TEA, POLYPHENOLS, AND GUT HEALTH
Tea is going to give you the most “bang for your buck” when it comes to gut supporting polyphenols. Per serving, tea contains more polyphenols per serving than broccoli or ion one apple. So, if you’re looking to up your consumption of polyphenols, tea is the way to go! Plus, it tastes great and is a super addition to your daily routine. Now If you’re anything like me, including a few cups of herbal tea per day is a no brainer!
Besides being one of the most abundant sources of polyphenols, tea and its specific benefits to gut health have also been supported by science.
The regular consumption of tea polyphenols has been shown to improve the number of beneficial gut bugs while limiting the numbers of pathogenic ones. And since we know how important a healthy balance of gut bacteria is to our overall health, the benefits of drinking tea high in polyphenols is huge.
TEA AS AN ANTIOXIDANT
The polyphenols in tea do so much more than just act as a prebiotic to modulate gut bacteria. The antioxidant properties of these compounds can also be beneficial for supporting a healthy gut.
Antioxidants reduce inflammation. And we all know that inflammation, especially in the gut, is a recipe for disaster.
In rats with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), consuming green tea was shown to improve diarrhea and other gut symptoms associated with the disease. Your gut can also become inflamed for reasons way less serious than IBD. Gut inflammation can come from a diet high in processed foods and refined sugars and low in fiber, or from living a high-stress lifestyle. If you’re experiencing some gut symptoms (like bloating, gas, or reflux) try including some high-quality tea in your routine. If that still doesn’t seem to help, your next best move is to team up with a qualified health practitioner to get to the root of your gut issues.
TEA AS AN ANTIMICROBIAL
We’ve already looked at how the prebiotic properties of tea polyphenols can support the growth of healthy gut bugs.
But did you know that tea can also act as an antimicrobial to help get rid of bad gut bacteria?
The specific polyphenols in tea can actually inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria in a few ways. These compounds can bind to bacteria cell membranes causing damage, as well as inhibit bacterial enzyme activity.
In other words, the compounds in tea actually kill the bad bacteria in our guts!
Herbal tea polyphenols have been shown to actually prevent the growth of h pylori. This is the main pathogenic bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers and acid reflux. And when used both alone or in combination with traditional antibiotics, herbal, green, and black tea were all shown to exhibit antimicrobial effects. So, if you’ve been prescribed antibiotics for an infection, it wouldn’t hurt to supplement with high-quality tea for an added antimicrobial boost.
TEA AS DETOX SUPPORT
Detoxification is far more than lemon water cleanses or the latest detox shake. And even though the Kardashians are pushing their “detox teas”, the concept of tea supporting our body’s detoxification processes isn’t that far fetched. Our body’s detox organs (mainly the liver and kidneys) are constantly at work to filter out air and water pollution, preservatives in our food, and chemicals in our skincare products and makeup.
Detoxification normally happens just fine on its own. But if you are dealing with digestive issues, you might want to give your body a little extra support.
The gut is the body’s final pathway for elimination of its accumulated toxins. If you’re not pooping regularly, those toxins could just be sitting in your gut getting reabsorbed. The prebiotics in tea can help support regular, healthy bowel movements by feeding the beneficial flora in our gut.
Drinking a few cups of tea every day will not only help support proper digestive function, but it can also aid in the earlier stages of detoxification too.
When it comes to detoxification support, herbal teas are the real superstars. The polyphenols specifically, directly support liver detox. By increasing enzyme activity that drives the first two phases of detoxification, these polyphenols enable the body to initiate the removal of stored toxins. Green herbs such as nettle, dandelion, peppermint etc also contain a large amount of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the pigment that makes these beverages green and offers an array of health benefits when consumed. When we’re talking about detox and gut support, chlorophyll has been shown to help flush out heavy metals, toxins, and chemicals from the body. Enjoying a few cups of herbal tea every day can help your body eliminate toxins more effectively, protecting your body from the exposures of everyday life.
THE BOTTOM LINE ON TEA FOR GUT HEALTH
Tea certainly isn’t the cure-all for your digestive symptoms. But, if you’re looking to give your gut health a boost, tea is a proven worthwhile addition to your routine. Herbal Teas like these contains some of the largest amounts of health-promoting compounds per serving of anything you could consume. From polyphenols to antioxidants to chlorophyll, tea is a great addition to any healthy lifestyle.
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